Maple View insert: Canadian Mennonite responds

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October 18, 2017
, Publisher

The Sept. 25 print issue of Canadian Mennonite contained an insert from Maple View Mennonite Church entitled “Honour God with Your Bodies.” Some readers have asked about the rationale for its inclusion, many expressing pain, anger and confusion about its contents, and the fear that it will do further harm to LGBTQ Mennonites who have suffered rejection, shaming and exclusion from the body of faith, and to the church as a whole.

We have been deeply impacted by the stories we have heard. We regret the harm this insert has caused.

We want you to know that the decision to accept this insert was not taken lightly, but in response to the recommendations of the Becoming a Faithful Church (BFC) process.

CM publishes paid “promotional supplements” as an option for companies, organizations and church bodies to present their goods, services or ideas to our readers in the form of an insert that looks and feels different from the magazine. A supplement offers a sponsor control over format, paper stock, and content without the same editorial oversight given to news and viewpoints pages. While these inserts obviously generate revenue, the content must fit our editorial policy. CM has rejected requests when the insert does not, for example, represent a body related closely to the Mennonite church and its mission.

When Maple View Mennonite Church, a member of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, approached CM about having a place to present its conclusions on its three-year participation in the BFC process, this was the vehicle it chose—certainly an unconventional one for a single congregation. This included having it stapled in the centre spread, so it wouldn’t slip out during mailing and could then be easily detached. Our staff was in dialogue with the church over a period of months. Because of the sensitive nature of the topic, we also discussed it with our board and church leaders. Because Maple View is a member of our church body, and the magazine’s stated mission includes helping diverse voices speak to the larger church, the difficult decision was made to allow the church’s statement to appear in a promotional supplement.

We believe making space for this is consistent with the recommendations of the BFC process, as the recently released General Board Confession states: “The General Board decided at the outset, that the process of the BFC should reflect the congregationally based polity of the denomination. This meant that discernment of faithfulness would emerge from the congregations and not only from the academy, advocacy groups, institutional structures or a representative committee. The BFC Task Force was mandated by the General Board, not to do the discerning, but to design a process that would allow all voices in our church to speak, to be heard, and to hear what others were saying.”

CM’s mission is “to educate, inform, inspire and foster dialogue on issues facing Mennonites in Canada . . . .” We recognize that this is a difficult and painful conversation, particularly for those who have experienced it in a deeply personal way, and we need to keep learning how to facilitate it. How do we “allow all” of us to speak, to be heard and to hear?

To read some readers’ letters responding to the insert, go to: www.canadianmennonite.org/readers-write-october-23-2017-issue and www.canadianmennonite.org/stories/readers-write-nov-6-2017-issue

Comments

Sadly, this is deja vu all over again. I say this as a 62 year old who had direct experience in advocating for LGBTQ inclusion working for MCC Women's Concerns back in the 90's. Its astounding that so little has changed. Most of the LGBTQ Mennonites of my generation exited the church after it became abundantly clear that it was not safe to be out in Mennonite circles. I was mildly hopeful that a younger generation of LGBTQ people and their allies might make some progress but this does not seem to be the case. My heart bleeds for those who now feel deeply betrayed by CM's actions.

A gay friend of mine who left the Mennonite church a generation ago once said he didn't fear the conservatives nearly as much as the liberals. He said he knew exactly what to expect from conservatives but it was liberals who sold him out. This dynamic is still at play in the CM defense of the Maple View insert. As I found out 35 years ago working for MCC Canada, you cannot advance a career in a Mennonite institution if you advocate for gay inclusion. Don't know how people can sleep at night knowing the violence they commit on behalf of these institutions.

But if its any consolation to those who have been betrayed, my friend recently became Executive Director of a Provincial Heritage Foundation. One of his tasks is the overseeing of closures and re-purposing of churches throughout the province. Perhaps there is a God somewhere after all.

I hereby request that the Canadian Mennonite withdraw its apology. Are you not apologizing for upholding journalistic integrity? It is your role to be a crossroads and sounding board for the diverse conviction across our communion. The Mapleview Statement is a courageous, articulate restatement of what the church has understood about human and sexual relations since the Apostles. That the congregation had to pay for the insert is simply a sign of our times. This statement resonates with many who are welcoming but not affirming, loving but not accepting.

If you apologize for offense to the LGBTQ activists who are deeply grieved, than you must also apologize to the Confessing Churches who are also deeply grieved. You made a tough call, it was the right call and you should own your vocation as Christian journalists. Do not apologize for grasping the nettle on the right and the nettle on the left: its called integrity.

There are real people who have been hurt. People who need a real apology. Canadian Mennonite's editorial policy for letters says, "Please address issues rather than individuals; personal attacks will not appear in print or online." You broke your own rule. The Maple View insert may have been intended to address an issue but CM mails it's material to "people." You need to listen to LGBTQ+ Mennonites who are saying that your decision to distribute Maple View's insert was experienced as an attack. You need to own that and ask for forgiveness. Your intentions are less important than the perceptions of your fellow Jesus followers that you have hurt. You need to ask the LGBTQ+ Jesus followers who read your magazine what they would see as a healthy "third way" forward. You need to accept responsibility for your actions. Please do better, please listen more and print less.

I strongly disagree with Maple View's position, but I do defend the Canadian Mennonite in its publishing of the Maple View insert.

I believe Maple View made a poor decision in publishing the insert because its uncompromising language did not welcome any engagement with persons who held a differing view. Consequently it generated much anger in many readers, and and may simply create self-righteous theological smugness in those who agreed with Maple View's text.

However, until Mennonite Church Canada changes article 19 in the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, Maple View has stated a position formally in line with that held by the denomination. Maple View has been a member in good standing of Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church Eastern Canada. I think this fact compelled Canadian Mennonite to accept the article as presented, while making it clear this was not editorial content of the magazine.

I think the outrage expressed on social media and here should be shifted from castigating the Canadian Mennonite and should be transformed to positive efforts to update the current Confession of Faith to understandings presently held by the denomination. Thankfully there has been enormous change in MC Canada on this issue in the last decade, but silencing the recently new minority is not the best response we can give.

I believe the outrage is warranted and part of a positive effort to move forward. The views in this insert and the wide publication of it has set us back years in a positive discernment process.

First, I believe the editorial and publishing staff of Canadian Mennonite is well-intentioned though badly mis-guided in publishing and then defending the Maple View supplement, and what follows is not intended as a personal attack on any person or CM as a whole, but rather a strong critique of the actions taken by CM staff over the Maple View fiasco. I echo Jessica's comments. Any offence Maple View may have taken from having their proposed insert rejected is microscopic in comparison to the profound feelings of violation, betrayal, fear, confusion, despair, and anger this supplement has roused within the LGBTQ community. There is no comparison at all, the power imbalance is so vast. Allowing the supplement initially was a major error in judgement on Canadian Mennonite's part. Publishing a non-apology defending the error only aggravates it all the more. Your mission to “to educate, inform, inspire and foster dialogue on issues facing Mennonites in Canada” has failed utterly, both with the initial insert, and with the Oct 23 response. There is no educating or informing, just forcing one congregation's view on the entire polity. It has polarized the conversation, making people less likely to truly dialogue and listen to one another. Nothing short of a complete apology, excuses exempted, to the LGBTQ community and to our entire church readership for allowing CM to become a political platform for one church to spout its discriminatory viewpoint will begin to address the profound hurt this has caused within our body. It will take years for Canadian Mennonite to build up any trust with the LGBTQ community.

Would you have us stone biblical transgressors? Cherry picking Bible verse to justify discrimination seems somewhat sacrilegious.

Richard, I suspect you and I would agree that stoning is not a prescribed new testament method of dealing with sexual sin. We see this clearly modeled by Jesus in the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery (Jn 8) as well as in Paul's dealings with the Corinthians. Ironically, those stories come out of the same new testament that also warns us on several occasions that the sexually immoral (hetero or homosexual) will not inherit the kingdom of God. To gladly accept one passage of scripture while rejecting the other (as proponents of homosexuality often do) is the epitome of cherry picking, as you allege I am doing. And so, to be faithful (and not sacrilegious as you likewise accuse me) we are compelled to take the scriptures as they come to us, and not how we wish them to be.

My sincere suggestion for you would be to develop a solid biblical hermeneutic for identifying which aspects of the old testament law are still applicable to us today, and which are not. One simple way of doing this is to look at which old testament commands reappear in the new testament, and which do not. In this way we can clearly see that commands to sacrifice animals, for example, are abolished through the cross while commands against homosexuality are not.

I know this is an emotional issue for many, but we simply cannot rewrite scripture to suit our own preferences. We must conform to the unchanging word of God, not vice-versa.

Steve, your suggestion to identify "which aspects of the old testament law are still applicable to us today" would seem to be an exercise in cherry picking and would seem to be ignoring the "unchanging word of God". If you want to "take the scriptures as they come to us, and not how we wish them to be", does it not require consistency?
As a proponent of human rights, I find it distasteful to use scripture to discriminate. I believe that God, in Her infinite wisdom, intended us to live in harmony and to love each other in a respectful way and I don't think the paid advertisement/insert made enough room for that.

Sadly Richard, your argument is not only erroneous but bordering on plain silly. No serious biblical scholar would refute that the new covenant in Jesus abrogates the Law. The question is merely which aspects of the Law remain and which do not. Have you ever read Romans, Hebrews or Galatians, for example? To then suggest God the Father is a woman after pointing out that He is unchanging in His nature is pure self-contradiction.

It's probably best for you to educate yourself more before making comments on things you clearly don't understand very well. God will hold each one of us accountable for our words, and misleading others with them is a serious issue in his eyes. (Luke 17.2)

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